Sunday, May 31, 2015

South Fork Kern River Loop - HOT!

Wildrose trail
A week ago in Yosemite we were hiking in cold rain and snow.  On Saturday we had sun and close to 90F in the afternoon!  To test our trail legs we chose a loop hike that took us out of Kennedy Meadows at 6,200 feet elevation climbing up the old Wildrose trail to near Haiwee Pass where we hiked to from the east side just 2 weeks ago.  The start saw us hiking through pinyon pine and a few scattered oaks with very good birding.  Within a hundred yards of where we parked the car we had a singing Plumbeous Vireo who offered excellent views.  Other pinyon forest birds were seen including Black-headed Grosbeak, Oak Titmouse and Black-throated Gray Warbler.  About half way up the climb we passed through Wildrose meadow where a family flock of Bell's Sparrows flitted about.
Wildrose Meadow
As we continued higher we passed through the 2008 Clover Fire burn with the expected fire loving species like Hairy Woodpecker, Chipping Sparrow and Western Bluebird.  Anywhere there was a trickle of water from a spring or seep had a singing Lazuli Bunting.

Clover Fire burn with Kern Peak in the distance

We reached 8,000 feet elevation, a short distance below Haiwee Pass and turned and dropped elevation toward the South Fork of the Kern River.  In this drought year, even with the recent rain and snow in the high country, the Kern was hardly more than a trickle.

South Fork Kern River

The climb out of the river canyon at 7,400 feet to the ridge was long and hot.  We passed through Dutch John Flat where a pair of Williamson's Sapsuckers knocked about in a stand of Jeffrey Pines. A Calliope Hummingbird perched from a willow near a seep.  As we moved higher toward the top of the ridge, the view east toward the Sierra crest opened up.

Dutch John Flat and the Sierra crest.  Haiwee Pass is the lowest notch just right of center.  Olancha Pass is at the left end.

We reached the the ridge at 8,600 feet and started the descent to the PCT where we reentered the burn.  The tree skeletons had a ghostly look.

Skeleton trees

It was a long hot descent down the PCT to Kennedy Meadows with very little shade inside the heat trapping canyon.  The recent heat wave and lower elevation made for some slow going.  It is near the peak of PCT thru hikers passing this way going north so we had lots of company as we moved downhill.  We crossed the Kern one last time two miles from the Kennedy Meadows campground.  A mile and a half road walk from the campground to the car at the Wildrose trailhead was a punishing end to a long day.

Kern River

Distance: 22 miles
Elevation gain/loss: 3,600 feet

Bird Lists:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the scenic photos, great comments. I bet the air conditioned car was a major relief!!